A viceroy, or governor of a province, in the Babylonian and Persian empires appointed by the king as a chief ruler of a jurisdictional district. Daniel mentioned satraps as serving under Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian Empire. (Da 3:1-3) After the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, Darius the Mede set up 120 satraps over his entire kingdom. (Da 6:1) Ezra had dealings with satraps in the time of King Artaxerxes of Persia. (Ezr 8:36) In the days of Esther and Mordecai, the satraps supervised 127 jurisdictional districts under the Persian king Ahasuerus. (Es 1:1) Being the king’s official representatives, they were responsible to him and had quite free access to his presence. Consequently, they wielded considerable influence and power as civil and political chiefs. They collected taxes and remitted to the royal court the stipulated tribute.
Daniel, as one of the three high officials under Darius over the 120 satraps, distinguished himself above all of them to the point that the king was intending to elevate him over all the kingdom. Because they were envious, the officials and the satraps schemed to get Daniel thrown into a lions’ pit. The Bible does not state how many of the satraps personally appeared before the king with the accusation. But Jehovah proved to be with Daniel, sending his angel to shut the mouths of the lions. Then Darius had these official slanderers of Daniel, with their wives and their sons, thrown into the pit to be killed by the lions.—Da 6:1-24.
The book History of the Persian Empire says of the satrapal organization under Cyrus the Persian: “Each [province] was ruled by a satrap whose title meant literally ‘protector of the Kingdom.’ As successor to a former king, ruling a truly enormous territory, he was in point of fact himself a monarch and was surrounded by a miniature court. Not only did he carry on the civil administration but he was also commander of the satrapal levies. When his office became hereditary, the threat to the central authority could not be ignored. To meet this threat, certain checks were instituted; his secretary, his chief financial official, and the general in charge of the garrison stationed in the citadel of each of the satrapal capitals were under the direct orders of, and reported directly to, the great king in person. Still more effective control was exercised by the ‘king’s eye’ (or ‘king’s ear’ or ‘king’s messenger’), [an official] who every year made a careful inspection of each province.”—By A. T. Olmstead, 1948, p. 59.